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"On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog," read the caption in the now-famous New Yorker cartoon depicting a dog sitting in front of a CRT. Closer to home and far more relevant is the fact that using dynamic IP address assignment - which guarantees that you’ll be assigned a different IP address each time you dial up your ISP - "on the Internet, nobody knows where you are." In a development that could be welcomed by Internet users who want to run their own webserver, chat server, or FTP site without paying for ISP hosting or for a domain name, longtime OpenVMS system software vendor Touch Technologies Inc. is now offering Name-Keeper, a free service that lets you choose your own hostname and establish a permanent presence on the Internet. We recently met TTI President Dan Esbensen to learn about the new service, how it works, and why anyone would be interested in using it. Name-Keeper resulted from TTI's work on IP-enabled web camera servers for security applications. In the process of developing IP-enabled "webcams," TTI discovered that each IP-addressed camera would have a constantly changing address. Despite the impermanent IP address, TTI required that each camera have a fixed host name in order that it could be accessed from the camera server. TTI accordingly figured out how to wed a fixed host name to a dynamic IP address. The firm has applied for US patents related to dynamic host name association using a web browser as the source of the association, and the use of this technology to direct traffic to a specific site. While the webcam app remains —for now, proprietary, the underlying dynamic host association capability is now freely available to Internet users. Thus far, Esbensen says, reception to the pilot project has been very positive. Using Name-Keeper, for example, you could build a Web page on a home PC, and dispense with online storage concerns altogether. For example, to serve content up to all and sundry, we would get on the Net, go to Name-Keeper, create a virtual domain name of our choice, and log in. As long as the connection was maintained, visitors aware of the virtual domain address could transparently access the content. The only constraint on SKC would be that we would have to revisit the Name-Keeper site every time we needed to re-establish contact with the Web. TTI maintains that it is offering this no-charge service to proliferate its technology and increase its market exposure. Significantly, the firm is not using Name-Keeper to acquire demographic info a la Double-Click. Initially, TTI looked at using an agent on end-user PCs, but opted instead for the more-benign browser approach. The only cookie Name-Keeper sets on a local PC is the selected domain name; this can be disabled but disabling will defeat the instant reconnect capability. ® Terry Shannon is editor of Compaq newsletter Shannon knows Compaq He can be contacted via email here.

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